PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The hydroxychloroquine study being conducted by Sanford Health, Avera Health and Monument Health is different than research completed in New York or studies done by the World Health Organization, a health official said Thursday afternoon during Gov. Kristi Noem’s news conference.
Dr. Allison Suttle, the chief medical officer for Sanford, says doctors in South Dakota have pivoted away from using the drug for very sick patients in the hospital.
The plan in South Dakota originally did include using hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients but other studies including one in New York, have shown that hydroxychloroquine is not effective for patients in hospitals, Suttle said.
“It doesn’t make sense” to give hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients in hospitals, Suttle said.
The clinical study in South Dakota now is only focused on using hydroxychloroquine in patients who have been exposed to COVID-19, Suttle said.
“There are several studies looking at prevention and this is one of them,” Suttle said.
Sanford Health, Avera Health and Monument Health are cooperating for a controlled study in which 1,000 patients will receive a placebo and 1,000 patients will receive hydroxychloroquine. The patients will be monitored for 45 days to learn if they get COVID-19 and to learn if hydroxychloroquine lessens symptoms for patients who do get COVID-19, Suttle said.
Suttle pointed out the clinical study also differs from frequently referred to studies from New York, by the World Health Organization and the Veterans Administration, in another key way. Those studies gathered vast amounts of data and information from COVID-19 hospital patients and were not controlled studies that included more “apples to apples” comparisions, Suttle said.
Suttle said the public should think of the hydroxychloroquine as somewhat like Tamiflu, which is given to lessen flu symptoms.
So far, “a handful” of patients have agreed to participate in the clinical study, Suttle said.
The clinical study uses hydroxychloroquine from a federal supply and it does not take away hydroxychloroquine from patients who regularly take it, Suttle said.
The dosage given in the clinical study is also similar to what people receive for malaria when they travel abroad, Suttle said.
“Physicians have been prescribing (this dosage) for decades and decades,” Suttle said.
Before a participant is approved for the study, health care workers evaluate their overall health and any medications they may be using.
It is a safe study and physicians are confident in the structure, Suttle said.